Friday, April 30, 2010

Blue Skies, Smiling At Me

It's skies like this that reinforce my belief that there is a heaven.

I'll use this sky as my happy place when I'm sitting in court again on Monday.

Stay tuned for updates....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Every Village Has An Idiot - My Village Is Looking For Me

Hello, my name is Kim and I am an idiot. Here is my story:

*hi Kim!!*

Several weeks ago, my boss asked me to schedule a meeting with some vendors coming in from New York. The vendor and I emailed back and forth regarding dates and times, and finally settled on 10:30am today. I sent the meeting invitatation to them via Outlook, scheduled a conference room, and thought that was that.

Today, around 10:45am, I realized we hadn't heard from them. As I have been out of the office the last couple of weeks, with that trial thing, I asked my boss if the meeting had been cancelled while I was out. She said no, not that she knew.

Being the initiative-taking kinda girl I am, I looked at Lambert's flight schedules from New York - hmmm, all planes from New York arrived on time. I wonder what could be keeping them?

And then I realized - Oh, holy crap...time zone change. I bet you $20 they show up at 11:30.

Apparently, Outlook isn't smart enough to realize that if I, in the Central Time Zone, send a 10:30 meeting request to someone in the Eastern time zone, I mean 10:30 and not 11:30. Conversely, perhaps I am not smart enough to remember that Outlook is stupid and I should tell people Central Time.

Anyway, damn.

To add to the confusion, our department was leaving the office at 11:30 for a belated birthday lunch for me. So, when our vendors showed up, we invited them along.

Hilarity ensues.

~~~~~~Scooby Doo Flashback Time~~~~~~

Earlier in the day, I was asked where I wanted to eat for my birthday. There are two malls both within 10 minutes from my office, both of which have fantastic restaurants and both of which I have been to for other office lunches in the last few months. I said "Hanley's" (at West County Mall across the street) but was picturing Cardwell's (at Plaza Frontenac 10 minutes away).

Brain = fail.

~~~~Back to Present Time~~~~

My boss drove separately, as she had to leave by 12:30 for a previously-scheduled meeting. Other members of the team drove themselves, so I (feeling responsible for the time zone mixup) offered to drive our vendors to lunch. They would soon discover that this was doing them no favors.

I headed to West County Mall, across the street from my office. As I pulled into the parking lot, I thought I was in the wrong place (but not really because that's where they keep Hanley's, but no one else could see I was thinking Cardwell's in my head) and said "oh, I am so sorry, I went to the wrong place." So, we loop around the parking lot, hit the highway and head down to Plaza Frontenac and Cardwell's (which I was picturing as Hanley's.)

Are you with me?

So, as we merge onto Highway 40, we get caught in a funeral procession, and have to pull over.

While we're waiting, the vendors (who were lovely women from New York), and I discuss malls and shoes and the fact that we have to walk through Neiman Marcus to get to the restaurant. Hooray, shopping!

We arrive at Plaza Frontenac, park right by Neiman's front door, and walk through all the fantastic shiny purses and shoes. Pretty!!

As we arrive at the restaurant, I look at the name and think "Oh, shit."

I mentally smack myself for my stupidity. I turn to the ladies (who are most patient and kind) and say, "I am so sorry, we were in the right place before, I had the restaurants confused."

We pile back in the car and head back to West County. I call my boss, tell her we're on our way, and hit the road.

I apologized to the vendors, again. One of the ladies had never been to St. Louis, so I felt a little better knowing I had shown her two great places to shop. As their flight doesn't leave until 7pm, they are excited about going back to Plaza Frontenac. At least something good came of this field trip.

We get to Hanley's, and are greeted by the rest of my department, who have now passed out from hunger because they had to wait 45 minutes for me to show up, with the vendors. My boss has 20 minutes to do this meeting. Good thing she's a pro.

We go around the table, introducing ourselves, and when it gets to me, I say "and thank you so much for attending my my belated birthday lunch which is now probably going to be known as my farewell lunch." Everyone laughed, probably at me.

The vendors gave their presentation, my boss left on time, and I managed to get the vendors back to the office without incident - in fact, we arrived before the rest of the department did. How's that for irony?

So, what have we learned today?

First, make sure you clarify your meeting time when dealing with various time zones, and next time order in the lunch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day Two - Not Quite Finished Yet

Today, after testimony from a few more witnesses, the prosecution (that's my side) finished its case. To everyone who testified for us, I thank you for getting up on that stand and pouring out your heart. My gratitude is immense.

However, the respondent (the State) decided it needs more time to put on its defense - so on May 3rd we'll find out how the State decides to respond to us.

Oh look, another delay. You know, at this point, it's not a surprise to have to wait...again. I guess we've waited almost 2 1/2 years, what's another few weeks? <-- if there was sarcasm font, I totally would have been using it.

Ahem. Anyway.

Here is the news coverage (and comments) of Day Two.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day One - A Recap

I wasn't going to post until after the trial, for myriad reasons. However, today's developments deserve to be posted. Luckily the newspaper, and the commenters, can say it better than I can. Read on here

Stay tuned for Day 2...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Case Closed

Two years, four months, and 24 days ago, my life was irrevocably altered when my daughters, Jessica Elaine Uhl and Kelli Christine Uhl, were killed.

The actions of an Illinois State trooper ended their lives.

Today, he pled guilty to all four felony charges – two reckless homicide charges and two aggravated reckless driving charges. He will be placed on probation for 30 months. If he violates the terms of probation, he will go to jail.

He will more than likely lose his job, and with it, the hefty paycheck he’s been receiving for over two years while on paid leave. He also received pay raises during that time, even though he wasn’t actually working. The State of Illinois has paid him over $158,000 since November 23, 2007, and it is doubtful he'll have to repay it.

In addition, he has already cost the State of Illinois two million dollars in damages stemming from a previous wreck. This was his third wreck.

The wreck that killed my daughters was completely preventable. There was no reason for him to be driving 126mph, weaving in and out of heavy, post-Thanksgiving traffic, driving on the shoulder, all while talking on his cell phone and using his dashboard computer. The accident he was responding to was over eleven miles away, and was already being attended to by first responders. There was no fire, until he demolished my daughter’s car.

The criminal case is now closed. We have a conviction.

We are hopeful that this conviction sends a message not only to all first responders and law enforcement officers, but to all drivers: Please slow down, pay attention, put down the phone and drive safely.

Now we go to trial on Monday for the civil case.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Here's Your Sign

Back in January, we had some tough decisions to make regarding our court cases. I struggled with the decision all day, not knowing if I was doing the right thing.

I left work that day, still not convinced. As I drove home, I talked to Jessica and Kelli, trying to explain to them, and to myself, that although it wasn’t the ideal outcome, it was accomplishing the majority of what we wanted to see happen. I argued both sides, trying to look at it from all the angles. Whether I was trying to convince them or myself, I’m not sure.

I remember saying that I wished there was some way I could know if this was the right path.
Traffic wasn’t bad that day, but as I drove alongside other cars, I stopped talking out loud. I didn’t want people to think I’m crazy. I do the same thing when I sing in the car, I stop when I get into traffic. Which sucks sometimes because it’s usually a really good song.

As I passed a maroon Grand Prix, I noticed the license plate said GOD SNT. My first thought was “Jesus drives a Grand Prix?” Then it hit me – GOD SENT.

Later, as I got off at my exit, I stopped behind a car. The license plate said BLSSD.
As I drove on home, I said, okay God, I’m giving You this problem. I trust You and I know You’ll do the right thing.

And what do you know, things wound up being not quite as bad as they seemed that day.

Now we are a week away from the civil hearing and I’m again facing a hard road. I have to tell the court who they were, not just through pictures but through my stories and descriptions. I don’t want to let them down, because this is my only shot.

Yesterday was a hard day for me, because once again all my decisions and plans had to revolve around the delay-ridden justice system. I was feeling crabby and selfish, because I can’t even plan my birthday due to the “what-ifs” that I’ve got to deal with this week.

Again, as I drove home, I talked to Jessica and Kelli. I remembered the surprise birthday party that they planned for me one year. I remembered the handmade cards on notebook paper with crayon birthday cakes.

I flipped around through the radio stations and We Are Family came on. When they sang the line of “have faith in you and the things you do, you won’t go wrong,” I started to cry.

You see, my attorney is putting together a video montage to play for the court. One of the songs
I suggested be used was We Are Family. We used to dance around the kitchen to it, and Jessica, Kelli and Maddy would drape their arms around each other’s shoulders and sing “I got all my sisters with me.” We joked about their weddings and how they would have all their sisters with them. It has been our closing song at the fundraisers, and last year we played it twice, because once isn’t enough.

After it ended, the next song was crap (which usually happens). I flipped to another radio station and damned if We Are Family didn’t start playing again. As the opening bars played, I looked through my open sunroof up at the blue sunny sky and said “are you trying to tell me something?” This time, I sang it. In traffic. To hell with people thinking I was crazy.

And when I sang “have faith in you and the things you do, you won’t go wrong,” I meant it. I have faith in God and I have faith in me. I have faith in my friends and family that are helping me get through this. I have faith that the justice system will not fail us.

I said, “okay, we can do this.”

And as I was driving along, feeling a little better, I remembered the Grand Prix and smiled. And in about the same place on the highway, I passed a red Jeep with a license plate that said NO RGTS.


I get it, girls. Here’s my sign.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Big Sister

As part of my pre-trial preparations, I’ve had to go through pictures of the past 20 years. My attorney decided he wanted to prepare a photo montage of the girls showing their lives. I went a step further, and provided not only pictures, but also personal items, like Jessica’s graduation cap and her acceptance letter to SIUE, Kelli’s cheerleading poms and artwork she drew. I included their funeral visitation books to show that over 1,000 people filed through that funeral home to pay their respects.

As I was going through the pictures, I relived so many days – ones I remembered clearly and ones that made me say “oh yeah, I forgot about that.” I found pictures that made me laugh, ones that hurt my heart, and ones that made me cry.

One of my favorite stories stems from this: Maddy was getting ready to start kindergarten, and Kelli was getting ready to start intermediate school (5th and 6th grade). Maddy would be attending the same school that Kelli had for the past three years. It was a small school, with only one class per grade, so everyone knew each other.

Maddy was nervous about starting school, and Kelli was nervous about attending her new school. She would be leaving a familiar place where she knew everyone to attend a larger school where she wouldn’t know most of the kids in her class.

Their daycare provider, Becky, arranged for a tour of the schools. They started at the elementary school, where Kelli played big sister to Maddy and showed her the kindergarten class room, the lunch room , the play are where she would have recess, and the office. Kelli told Maddy that the secretary, Ms. Jayne, was nice but she better only go to the office if the teacher sent her, otherwise she better not get into trouble. Apparently her advice stuck with Maddy, because she never got sent to the principal's office.

Then they headed to the intermediate center. The elementary school could probably fit into the gym and lunch room of this place, that’s the size difference Kelli was facing. Becky told me later that Kelli was scared, but she wasn’t letting it show. She didn’t want Maddy to be scared.

As they toured the school, empty but for the custodians, the kids decided to run in the halls. Of course, Maddy managed to find a small puddle of water and slipped and fell, getting her behind all wet. She began to cry, not so much hurt but embarrassed. Kelli picked her up, dusted her off, and said “Maddy, don’t cry, Becky will take you for ice cream and you will be fine.”

Although it seems like they fought and screamed and yelled and beat each other ALL THE TIME, they did love each other and did care for one another. As I went through the pictures, I found so many of them where they were hugging each other and smiling. And it wasn’t a smile of “act happy, mom is looking.” It is genuine love and happiness.